Many of you will be aware that parkrun UK is aiming to resume its regular 5k events from June 2021. We are extremely disappointed however, that Tring parkrun will not be one of those.
Unfortunately, The Woodland Trust, who manage Tring Park on behalf of Dacorum Borough Council, has withdrawn all future permission for Tring parkrun to continue within Tring Park. And, importantly, this decision has nothing to do with concerns about restarting social gatherings post COVID-19.
Since the Woodland Trust first told us of its decision last September, the Tring parkrun core volunteer team, with the support of parkrun UK, has attempted to engage the Woodland Trust, up to CEO level, in order to find a solution that would enable parkrun to continue in Tring Park. We know that parkrun operates successfully on many sensitive sites throughout the UK and around the world, and in our view, there is no reason why we should not be able to do so in Tring Park. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Woodland Trust has not engaged constructively with us to find a way forward and has provided no good reason as to why we are no longer welcome.
Now, more than ever, communities across the UK need help and support in getting active, and improving their health and wellbeing, as they come out of the most challenging year in many decades. That makes it even more disappointing that the Woodland Trust feels unable to support an event which provides physical and mental health benefits to so many in our community.
The Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston MP, recently wrote an open letter to parkrun landowners calling for the return of parkrun, but this has held no sway with the Woodland Trust. And we are now asking you to help us let the Woodland Trust know just how much Tring parkrun matters to you, your family, and your community, in the hope that it may make the Woodland Trust rethink its decision.
Reasons given by the Woodland Trust for its decision include:
- The administrative burden for the Woodland Trust created by Tring parkrun is too great at a time when it has limited resources.
- That the parkrun route has potential to cause damage to Tring Park, specifically sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) located within the park.
- That the site holds ancient monuments that have to be protected.
- That amid a ‘dual nature and climate crisis, and with woods and trees playing a vital role in the future of the planet, the focus of the Woodland Trust must be on the conservation of existing woods and trees as well as creating more high quality spaces for nature and people. Therefore, we must put the needs of the site and the species that call it home first’.
Our responses to those reasons are as follows:
- parkrun events operate successfully in over 2,000 global locations, and we do not believe that they create an administrative burden for their landowners. However, we have offered admin assistance on a voluntary basis, and this offer has been rejected by the Woodland Trust.
- We recognise that Tring Park is a beautiful and special place, and that elements of the park are designated as SSSI. Each of the routes we have used over the past six years has been fully agreed with the Woodland Trust in advance and, for the avoidance of doubt, our existing route does not cross the SSSI area. Nor do we believe our participants would pass through the SSSI on arriving or leaving the park. In fact, our volunteers go out of their way to make sure participants treat the park and surrounding area with respect.
- We recognise Tring Park has two historic monuments located on site but refute any suggestion that Tring parkrun has caused or may cause damage to these. There is no evidence at all of Tring parkrun negatively impacting either of these historic monuments.
- We entirely support the Woodland Trust’s aims of protecting nature and reducing climate change. However, Tring Park is not a habitat closed to visitors, and we strongly believe that Tring Park, owned by Dacorum Borough Council, should be a public space where people and trees co-exist. Further, the Woodland Trust does not place restrictions on other users of the park; indeed, the Trust’s own plans to create a car park next to the lime tree avenue in Tring Park will significantly increase footfall through both the park and the SSSI area.
- We have also offered to work directly with the Woodland Trust to arrange work parties for conservation activities, such as tree-planting and scrub clearance. Disappointingly, this offer has been entirely ignored.
- Importantly, 3km of our 5km route is on the Ridgeway National Trail, managed by Natural England, with whom we’ve spoken to and had positive conversations with. One of the aims of National Trails is to enable as many people as possible to enjoy a wide variety of walking and riding experiences.
We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported Tring parkrun over the years, and know that many of you will wish to express your opinion regarding this situation.
Also, Gagan Mohindra, MP for South West Hertfordshire, has today issued a statement setting out his continued support for us, and which we appreciate greatly:
- “As MP for South West Hertfordshire and as a member of the Tring community, I am saddened to hear of the Woodland Trust’s decision to withdraw its permission for Tring parkrun to resume in Tring Park. Tring parkrun has been a fantastic opportunity for free, outdoor exercise for local people over the past six years. In the aftermath of Covid-19, it is especially disappointing that this opportunity has been taken away from my constituents when we should be encouraging people to get outdoors and to look after their mental and physical health. While I understand the Woodland Trust’s core focus on protecting its sites, I hope that there can be a compromise that is beneficial to both the Woodland Trust and Tring parkrun."
How can you help?
With the Woodland Trust unwilling to engage with us, we are asking you to contact them, via their official complaints process, explaining what Tring parkrun means to you and why you think it should remain in Tring Park. Details of how to do that, by phone, email, or in writing, are available here.
Our only hope at this time is that the strength of public feeling will persuade the Woodland Trust to reconsider its decision and engage positively with us to support the continuation of Tring parkrun.
Our preference is to remain in Tring Park, and we have not identified any alternative locations in or near Tring that would be suitable, however if you do have a suitable idea, please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email, and for your support of Tring parkrun over the years. If we, as a parkrun community, wish for our event to continue once the country comes out of its COVID restrictions, we need to make our voice heard now.
If you would like to get in touch with us about any aspect of this situation, please reply to this email.
Thanks for your parkrun passion,
Andy, Steve and the Tring parkrun team